Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Clinton pledges to cancel debt
About 30,000 children die every day from preventable diseases
President Bill Clinton says he is prepared to cancel all the debt owed to the US by the world's poorest countries - provided the money is used to alleviate poverty.
Mr Clinton was speaking at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in Washington.
He said 1.3 billion people were surviving on less than $1 a day and 40 million people died of hunger every year.
Praise from Oxfam
The total debt owed to the US by the poorest countries is $6bn - just 3% of their total burden.
Campaigners hope they will now copy the American example.
Aid agency Oxfam was quick to welcome Mr Clinton's announcement.
But she also urged the US administration not to cut aid budgets for development assistance.
Mr Clinton's offer follows a new agreement by the IMF and the World Bank to provide improved debt relief to around 40 of the world's poorest countries.
Mr Clinton said he expects three-quarters of the eligible countries to receive some help by the end of the year 2000.
Mr Clinton has already asked Congress for $1bn as the US contribution to the beefed up debt relief programme.
"We must all provide our fair share of funding for debt relief," he said.
About half the total debt is owed directly to individual governments - mainly Japan, the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy - the G7 countries.
Most of the rest is owed to the World Bank and the IMF.
The IMF agreed at the weekend to use some of its gold reserves to help fund the improved HIPC programme.